Recent Study: HMO sugars in breast milk may impact early brain development
Quick Summary: Recent research finds human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) — special indigestible sugars in breast milk — may play a part in early brain development. The 2022 study found certain HMOs may have a specific role in the growth and maturation of the infant brain.
This is important information for parents (and healthcare professionals) to help inform breastfeeding and other infant feeding discussions. My take-home message: whenever possible, human milk for human babies.
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Human milk is an amazingly complex living substance.
Breast milk is filled with a long list of complex ingredients, including proteins, lipids, lactose, minerals (Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium), plus immunoglobulins (antibodies), hormones, live cells, enzymes, growth factors, microRNAs and so much more.
One particularly special component of human milk: oligosaccharide sugars.
Human milk oligosaccharides are the third most abundant solid constituent of human milk (after lactose and lipids). HMOs are a biologically diverse group of complex sugars, and somewhat surprisingly, every mother produces her own unique set of HMO sugars.
What is extra special about HMO sugars is that they are indigestible by the baby —indeed their main function is to feed the beneficial microbes in the baby’s gut.
And recently, scientists have discovered that specific HMO sugars may also play a key role in early brain development.
The study by Berger PK et al., was published in Nutrients on 16th September 2022.